LaughLines: It’s Not Easy Being Clean

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Matt and I are painting our bedroom. Of course, we’re doing it in mid-winter, which means sealed windows and paint fumes strong enough to choke a horse, but no matter. We’re determined to replace very tired-looking wallpaper, no matter how tired we get.

The process includes moving dressers and the bed around, so that means uncovering months – make that years – of dust bunnies, dirt, dead insects and hair balls. Yuck. It’s amazing what you find under a dresser that hasn’t moved since you moved in.

My job is to vacuum up what we find, and Matt’s job is apparently to sit there, looking stunned and sickened. Did I mention I’m married to the biggest neat-freak this side of the Mississippi?

The man takes two, sometimes three showers a day, scrubbing even the soles of his feet like he’s been exposed to deadly toxins. Remember that scene in the movie “Silkwood,” when poor Meryl Streep is exposed to nuclear waste and has to be steam-cleaned? That would be Matt’s idea of heaven. A couple of years ago, I got him the perfect Father’s Day gift: a needle-spray showerhead with enough power to knock him against the back wall of the shower. He loved it.

Perhaps his clean obsession is due to supernatural powers. He has a supersonic sense of smell, and can detect a dog fart from across the yard. He can tell when I’ve visited my cigarette-smoking mother by sniffing out the nicotine molecules clinging to my clothes (another giveaway might be my pained expression, come to think of it). And heaven forbid we cook anything without lighting a candle to “absorb the smell.”

Add to this his need to clean. Everything is washable in Matt’s universe and his weapon of choice is the dishwasher. Toothbrushes? In the dishwasher. Electric stovetop burners? Pop those babies out and put ‘em in the dishwasher. Hair brushes and combs, baseball hats (he has a special plastic frame so they don’t get misshapen), you name it. If he thought the dogs could fit (and survive), they’d get the treatment, too.

And speaking of the dogs, we wash them, a lot. That means upstairs, in the tub. It’s a lovely job, scrubbing dog rear ends and getting splattered by suds and drool and all manner of dog stuff. I need a shower after the dog baths.

What? You mean, you figured Mr. Clean would wash the dogs himself? Forget it. It’s a dirty job, and someone’s got to do it.

About Cate Drew

I’m on the high side of 40, with three dogs, two teens and one husband, living in a small New England town in a house that’s never quiet. Ever. It’s not that I have a really colorful life – I just tend to write colorfully about it. And there’s plenty of material: marriage to the Man of a Thousand Bad Ideas,.. my mom, who moved Dad’s coffin closer to the street six months after he died so she could visit his grave as a kind of drive-up window…our dog posse…our kids…lots of siblings and in-laws, former co-workers, old boyfriends -- they’re all here. Toss in 14 years of Catholic school and you’ve got a lot of guilt, too. Which reminds me: forget “high side of 40.” I’m 51, damnit.